Pastor’s Note: Freedom to love

Free to love others:

Paul tackles hot button issues in Romans that have extraordinary significance for us today.  Paul addresses various cultural and ethnic backgrounds (see the list in Romans 16) and he has to find a way to bring them together. His goal is nicely captured  in Romans 15:5-6.  One voice, many cultures, glorifying God together. Unfortunately as we all know, the message is not always universally applied.  Christians have been known to justify discrimination, racism and suppression of the “other” throughout history.  However, we need to remember the problem is not the message of the Gospel itself.   The Gospel remains the power of God to save us (Romans 1:16) and to change our hearts.  Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, is Exhibit A.  Culturally, racially and socially, Saul of Tarsus would have nothing to do with immoral and idolatrous Greeks.  The two groups would keep the interaction at a minimum.  However, in the Gospel, Paul the Apostle goes through a radical change of heart.  He now hangs out with Greeks (Titus, see Galatians 1); he counts women as fellow-workers (see the list in Romans 16); and he has a slave as his brother (Onesimus in Philemon).  He’s basically living out the Gospel of reconciliation in his own life and thereby give us all an example to follow.  In the first century, the social divide between men and women, slaves and free was huge.  Paul radically closes the gap and sees unity in Christ (Galatians 3:28).

Things to ponder and act upon :

In our hurting and divided world, we have a great opportunity to be agents of reconciliation in our own circles of influence.  Whenever we reach out to people with love and respect, chances are they will respond with a similar attitude.  And if they don’t, we keep reaching out!  This is after all at the heart of the Gospel: God keeps reaching out to us, even though we routinely ignore Him!  Be intentional to serve “the other”, pray for them and perhaps more importantly listen.  The cacophony of opinions on social media is overwhelming at times.  A great counter to that is to practice James’ exhortation to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19). Ask questions, seek to understand rather than to be understood.   As Paul tells us: don’t be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good (read Romans 12).

Tracking with Romans for this Sermon Series:

Make it a goal every week to read and meditate in Romans 12:1-21.  The chapter includes a practical list of how we can be agents of reconciliation around us.

One good way to prepare for Sunday’s sermon is to read the text beforehand.  Last week we were in Romans 1:18-35 and we will still refer to some parts of it as background to this coming Sunday’s message in Romans 2:1-29.    In Chapter 2, we are addressing the question of God’s fairness and impartiality in contrast to our own propensity to judge others quite partially.  Be in prayer as together we want to obey Jesus and His Word and to “be and make disciples” at TCC.